Okay, let’s begin with some facts. We really don’t know that much about the earth’s core. In fact, the deepest we’ve managed to drill is a couple of thousand feet down before the heat and the pressure got too much for the drill. Bill Bryson, in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, uses this analogy: if the earth is an apple, our efforts haven’t pierced the peel yet.
So everything that science can tell us is conjecture—really good guessing, if you prefer. But that really good guessing doesn’t come anywhere close to supporting the movie science on display in The Core. Is this important? Not really. Is The Core one of the most implausible and stupid films you’re ever likely to see? Hell, yes. Will it spoil your enjoyment of the film? Not even slightly.
In movie science world, the earth’s magnetic field is breaking down, due to the fact that its core has stopped rotating. This leads to a small number of deaths due to pacemaker failures, fouls up the Space Shuttle’s navigational system leading to a forced (ie crash) landing and has some mild weather changes in the Mid West. Yet only sexy and rebellious geophysicist Dr Joshua Keyes (Eckhart) and his team of spiky graduate students work this out.
His report is not taken seriously by the government at first, but soon the signs of the Apocalypse—dark clouds, electrical storms, Ben Affleck and J-Lo making movies together—are hard to avoid. It’s up to Joshua and a bunch of other renegades to save the world by journey to the very centre of the earth in a multi-billion dollar ship (if the Shuttle is a spaceship, is this technically a coreship?) made out of a substance called unobtainium.
Let me repeat that for you. Unobtanium. Seriously. Now, either the script writers are laughing with us at the conventions of sci-fi films or it’s one of those moments where they said to themselves ‘They’ll never let us away with this’, only to find that no-one read the script carefully enough to notice it.
Given that the crew consists of tousled man of science Joshua and wrongly disgraced but equally as tousled former Space Shuttle pilot Major Rebecca ‘Beck’ Childs (Swank) on the one hand, with a sneering villian (Tucci), an aloof Space Shuttle captain (Greenwood) and two caring science guys (Lindo and Karyo) on the other, it’s not difficult to pick which members are going to make it back.
The Core might not be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen, but I have met planks of wood with more intelligence. At 2 hours plus, it’s too long for such a shaky concept, but seasoned director Amiel, who might have been seen as an odd choice for such a seemingly one-dimensional tale, handles both the action and the characters well enough without allowing the film to descend into the pompous, jingoistic hell that was Armageddon.
There’s no denying that the cast are miles better than the usual big money action stars you’d expect to see in guff like this. Eckhart and Swank are normally found in more earnest indie fare, but they scrub up well and bring an emotional depth to their characters that’s as welcome as it is unexpected. No-one does ‘slimy yet urbane’ quite like Tucci, and he outshines everyone, effortlessly stealing the picture from them, just as he always does. And any film which casts the consistently under-rated Alfré Woodard and tries to make science sexy is more than all right by me. DJ Squalls aside, this is a ridiculously charismatic cast.
Swank got her first big break on TV’s Beverly Hills 90210 as Jason Priestly’s girlfriend and The Core is not unlike that show in a way. It’s a triumph of style over content, a guilty pleasure which you should indulge by shutting your brain off and wallowing in its fun superficiality. The Core is strictly for entertainment purposes and is not meant to be taken seriously.